NWF’s Take on America’s Climate Security Act of 2007

There has been some confusion lately over where the environmental community stands on America’s Climate Security Act of 2007. To clarify, here are two letters which should provide a better understanding of where the National Wildlife Federation stands.

The first is from NWF President and CEO Larry Schweiger. It was originally addressed to NWF board members, staff and supporters, but it seems appropriate here.

When I returned to National Wildlife Federation three years ago, we were all alarmed by what was happening around us.  The conservation movement was mired in scores of defensive battles to prevent rollback of the bedrock laws that have protected our wildlife and our environment. As we were fighting those important battles, the greatest single threat to wildlife and our children’s future was being ignored and neglected by politicians everywhere.

That issue is global warming.  Scientists’ warnings – and the warning signs we began to witness in the natural world – were being ignored by politicians and the media.  Global warming still had the baggage of multi-million dollar misinformation campaigns from oil companies and other polluters  that were casting this as a partisan issue.

There are some who will question our support of the Lieberman-Warner bill until we get all the changes we would want to make it a perfect bill.  I welcome the questioning because it means that the dialogue about global warming has risen to a new level.  People are angry that we have gone so long without acting.  They should be.  I am angry too.

However, we also need to listen carefully to what scientists are telling us about solving this problem.  We are facing a planetary crisis with a firm deadline and there is no time for delay.  Every day we wait, the risks grow and action becomes more difficult.  Why?  Our emissions are going up when they need to be going down.  According to the Bush Administration, our emissions of greenhouse gases in the United States will actually increase by one-third by the year 2030 if we don’t turn things around fast.

Scientists are warning us that we must act within the next few years to cut our emissions by two percent every year.  We need to hit that pivot point – the time when our emissions go down instead of up, as soon as possible. We need strong legislation that reduces global warming pollution and we need it now.

That’s why I am optimistic about America’s Climate Security Act.  Unlike past votes in Congress for measures that would have merely stopped emissions from growing, this bill actually puts us quickly on the downward trajectory of cutting emissions from large emitters by two percent per year from current levels.   And, it is the first bill to include all large emitters, not just power plants.

What’s more, this is the first legislation with specific measures to address impacts on consumers, particularly low- and middle-income families.  The bill devotes an estimated $350 billion through the year 2030 from polluter payments to help consumers reduce their energy consumption through efficiency.  We need to make sure legislation does not put the burden on those least able to carry it.  And we need to make sure that everyone has access to the economic opportunity created by this clean energy revolution.

The bill also includes essential provisions for protecting America’s fish and wildlife, great waters, and other natural resources from the climate changes that can no longer be avoided.  Healthy wetlands and other habitat are critical for wildlife and serve to protect our communities from the impacts of storms, droughts and other climate extremes brought on by global warming.  A rapidly changing climate is adding additional pressures to ecosystems already stressed by development, pollution and invasive species.   The Lieberman-Warner bill requires polluters to pay into a fund that devotes more than $160 billion through the year 2030 to protecting wildlife and America’s great waters.

Despite the many benefits of this bill, National Wildlife Federation has been seeking improvements. Some we have achieved, such as stronger goals in the coming fifteen years for reducing pollution.  We must get moving quickly, and not postpone the heavy lifting decades into the future.

National Wildlife Federation has fought hard for many of the strongest pieces of the bill and worked with the sponsors to improve this bill at each stage of the process.  And we have done it by building support and encouraging leaders like Senators Lieberman and Warner to step forward.

I am convinced that we will not meet the urgency of the climate crisis if we allow criticism to block progress.  We must focus on what unites us and not on what divides us.  By acting now we can re-adjust our aim as we go forward.  It is easier to turn the wheel of a car that is rolling than one that is sitting still.  Movement begets movement.

Additionally, getting a Senate vote on a substantive global warming bill will help raise the profile of the issue nationally as voters turn their attention to what candidates are saying about global warming.  As long as there is no action on global warming, it is very difficult to tell where candidates stand on this issue.  The climate crisis must become one of the top tier issues for Americans in this presidential campaign.

Read the full letter here.

The second,  is from seven environmental groups, to the Members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  The seven groups signed onto the letter are:  National Wildlife Federation, Environmental Defense, National Environmental Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, Union of Concerned Scientists and The Wilderness Society.  This letter shows the strong support the bill has.

Dear Members of the Environment and Public Works Committee,

We are writing to highlight the mounting urgency of action on global warming and
encourage prompt action by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. A
new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences warns that the global
buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has accelerated unexpectedly rapidly in
this decade. Similarly, recent evidence from the Arctic demonstrates that the greenhouse
gases already in the atmosphere are changing our climate far more rapidly than scientists
have predicted.

These and other findings underscore the need for prompt action to reduce the pollution
that is causing global warming. Time is running out for effective action, and we need to
get started now. The Department of Energy is forecasting that U.S. greenhouse gas
emissions will increase by more than 30% by 2030 without action. The longer we delay
action, the greater the impacts and risks, and the more dramatically we will have to cut
emissions in future years to achieve the same results.

Consequently, we applaud Senators Lieberman and Warner for their leadership and the
subcommittee for debating S. 2191 with the goal of reporting a bill to the full committee.
We further applaud Chairman Boxer for seeking to expeditiously report a bill out of the
full committee this fall. We would also like to thank Senator Baucus for his expressed
support of S. 2191.

We acknowledge and thank the sponsors for making important improvements in the bill
from their August outline. We also thank Senators Sanders and Lautenberg and other
members of the subcommittee and committee who are working to strengthen the bill as it
moves through the process.

It is vitally important that the Senate have a full and open debate on global warming
action. We therefore ask all members of the Environment and Public Works Committee
and its subcommittee of jurisdiction to work together to deliver a strong, bipartisan bill to
the full Senate this year.

Read the full letter here.